Asparagus and White Bean Soup

Asparagus and White Bean Soup Recipe

This soup provides a hearty, filling meal without the excess fat and sodium of canned versions. It uses fresh asparagus that provides vitamin K. The white beans add both protein and fiber. When blended, the beans thicken the soup to a creamy consistency without the need for cream or butter.

Yield: 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup diced onion

1 cup chopped asparagus

2 (15 oz.) cans no salt added white beans, rinsed and drained

2 ¼ cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

½ tsp fine ground sea salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

Parsley and shredded parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Directions

Heat the oil in a 3 to 4 quart pan over medium-high. Add the garlic and onion. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the asparagus and cook for 2 more minutes.

Stir in the beans and then the vegetable broth. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley.

Transfer the soup to a blender and puree for 10 to 15 seconds, until the soup is smooth. Return the soup to the pan on low heat. Stir in the salt and pepper. Serve warm, garnished with parsley leaves and shredded parmesan, if desired.

Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 250; Total Fat 3.9 g; Saturated Fat 0.6 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 372 mg; Carbohydrate 41.3 g; Fiber 10.3 g; Sugar 3.9 g; Protein 14.2 g

What Is a Paleo Diet?

What Is a Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet refers to an eating plan that mimics what was likely eaten during the Paleolithic era, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers.

The diet is made up of foods that could be hunted or gathered such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. The belief behind this style of eating is that foods like grains, legumes, and dairy are associated with the onset of chronic disease. Therefore, these foods are eliminated from the eating plan. Because it does not allow processed or pre-made foods, the Paleo diet limits sugar and sodium intake.

Not all Paleo diets are exactly the same. Many people eat variations of the diet, stick to it only during the week, or incorporate free days where they may eat anything they want. Others follow the guidelines strictly.

Even critics of the diet recognize that there are benefits with the reduction of sugar and sodium and with the increase in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats from fish, nuts, and seeds. But many health professionals are still concerned that excess meat increases saturated fat intake, and that the diet limits nutrient-rich foods. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, research still links the fiber from whole grains with a decreased risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and dairy may play a role in weight loss.

According to the Mayo Clinic, limited short-term clinical research conducted with small groups has shown that a Paleo diet may have moderate benefits when compared to eating plans that include whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy. There is evidence of increased weight loss, improved glucose tolerance, better blood pressure control, and better appetite control.

Larger, long-term studies are still needed. It’s possible that similar health benefits can be achieved with exercise and a balanced healthy diet, eliminating the need for such severe food restriction. Critics also argue that the basis of the diet may be oversimplified, leading to more confusion about healthy eating. Some archaeological research suggests that grains may have been present in the diets of our ancestors before the onset of farming. If this is true, it complicates the justification for eliminating them that is associated with the Paleo diet.

As always, when exploring new eating plans, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can help you find the best eating style that will give you the nutrients you need based on your health history and long-term fitness goals.

4 Stretches for a Healthier Back

Stretches for a Healthier Back

Muscle tension and tightness can contribute to back pain, making core flexibility an important factor in keeping your back healthy and pain free. Stretches that gently elongate the back muscles should be a regular part of your core strengthening routine. Ease into these stretches, and hold each for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to three times.

Cat Stretch

Move onto your hands and knees on the floor. Position your knees so that they are hip-width apart and your hands so that they are about shoulder-width apart. Contract your stomach muscles as you round your back and slightly tuck your chin. Release the stretch and return to a flat back before repeating.

Spine Twist

Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Rotate your upper body to the right, and place your right hand at the edge of the chair where the back of the chair meets the seat. Place the left hand on the edge of the seat, just under your right thigh. Sit up tall as you rotate at the torso and stretch the back muscles. Slowly return to the starting position, and repeat on the other side by rotating to the left.

Knees to Chest

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly pull your right knee into your chest. Grasp your your leg at the top of your shin and gently pull the knee in closer. Return the right leg to the starting position, and repeat the stretch with your left leg. Next, pull both knees in towards your chest at the same time. To deepen the stretch, as you pull one leg into your chest, extend the opposite leg out along the floor.

Seated Forward Bend

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet flexed. Sit up straight and raise your arms straight up in the air over your head. Gently bend forward at the waist as you reach your arms out towards your feet. Let your hands rest wherever is comfortable, such as at your knees, shins, ankles, or feet. Reach only as far as you feel a stretch with slight discomfort, not pain. To deepen the stretch, you can grasp the end of a rolled towel or yoga strap in each hand and wrap it around the balls of your feet. Gently pull the towel towards you as you bend forward into the stretch.

Ricotta Toasts with Fresh Strawberries

Ricotta Toasts with Fresh Strawberries Recipe

These easy toasts make a quick breakfast or snack. Part skim ricotta cheese provides protein and fresh strawberries supply vitamin C.

Yield: 4 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

8 slices whole wheat baguette

½ cup part skim ricotta cheese

1 tsp honey

8 to 10 strawberries, sliced

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Directions

Preheat the broiler and place the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Broil until toasted and browned, about 3 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta and honey. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta over each toast.

Place a few slices of strawberry over the ricotta on each toast. Sprinkle the toasts with chopped mint and serve.

Nutrition information for 1 serving (2 toasts): Calories 135; Total Fat 4 g; Saturated Fat 2 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 15 mg; Sodium 190 mg; Carbohydrate 20.3 g; Fiber 2.8 g; Sugar 6.9 g; Protein 6.4 g

What to Look For in Dairy Substitutes

What to Look For in Dairy Substitutes

Milk allergies, lactose intolerance, and nutritional choice prevent many people from eating and drinking dairy products. You can get all the nutrients you need without consuming dairy, but it’s important to pay attention to the nutrients you may lose when cutting dairy from your diet. Identify alternative foods and drinks that will help supply these nutrients without adding unwanted ingredients.

Low in added sugars

Dairy contains the natural sugar lactose, but unless it’s flavored, it does not have added sugars (sugar added during processing). Alternative milks such as almond, soy, rice, and coconut milks are popular substitutes for cow’s milk. It’s important to check food labels closely to ensure that these milks aren’t loaded with sugar. Flavored milks can indicate added sugar, but some varieties such as unsweetened vanilla are available.

Protein-rich

One cup of skim milk contains 8 grams of protein. While soy milk has nearly as much with 6 grams of protein per cup, a cup of almond milk has much less with only 1 gram of protein. If you relied on dairy for protein, it may be important to increase your protein intake from other sources. Nuts, seeds, beans and poultry all serve as sources for lean protein.

Contains calcium

Dairy has long been associated with supplying valuable calcium, but there are other foods that also supply this mineral. Aim to add more foods to your eating plan that are natural sources of calcium. A cup of cow’s milk provides about 300 milligrams and one cup of yogurt contains about 400 milligrams. Alternatively, one cup of cooked collard greens contains about 266 milligrams and a half cup of almonds contains about 122 milligrams.

Promotes digestive health

Most yogurts are known for containing live and active cultures that are used during fermentation. These cultures are associated with gut health and improved digestion. Fortunately, this health benefit is not limited to dairy yogurts. Soy yogurts and other lactose-free yogurts can also contain live and active cultures. The food label should indicate whether or not these cultures are present.

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